Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., May 3, 2022 – The Cross-Bay Ferry today announced the completion of its most successful season since the service began, with a record-breaking 62,130 riders, which is 10,000 more than its prior record. It also updated the plans for regional ferry service, including the potential to accelerate the commencement of permanent service for the 2024-2025 season.
The record-setting 2021-2022 season and new permanent service plans mark a new chapter in the ferry’s progression in becoming a long-term local transportation resource that will significantly relieve roadway congestion, boost commerce to local businesses, and provide a fast, fun, and affordable way to travel.
Single-season Ridership Record
In the weeks before the 2022 season’s end, the Cross-Bay Ferry capped a banner year by breaking its single-season ridership record of 52,528 riders, which was set during the pre-pandemic 2019-2020 season. This season also saw ridership grow by more than 60% over last season.
“After weathering a COVID slowdown that affected transportation networks worldwide, the Cross-Bay Ferry has returned to and exceeded its pre-pandemic form,” said Matt Miller, President, HMS Ferries, the operator of the Cross-Bay Ferry. “This season’s ridership validates the ferry’s steady growth to become a consistent, reliable option for travel to the most popular restaurants, museums, events, and shopping destinations in St. Petersburg and Tampa.”
The ferry’s increasing season-by-season growth, spanning from its first season, in 2016, to this season, has shown how it has steadily become a transit choice for Tampa Bay residents and visitors:
Other Season Highlights and Plans for Permanent Regional Service
In addition to its ridership record, the ferry had another highlight this season when, in February, the Federal Transit Administration awarded Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) a $4.9 million grant to buy a new 350-passenger vessel that HART requested last October.
Building on this, HMS Ferries and its development partner, South Swell Development Group, have accelerated their work with Hillsborough County in the development plans for permanent ferry service. Under the plans, a new regional ferry terminal will be built in South Hillsborough County on land donated by the Mosaic Company, and four new ferries will be constructed that are being designed to operate in the shallow waters of Tampa Bay. The 350-passenger ferry funded by the federal grant will be part of this fleet. Permanent ferry service will include weekday commuter service between MacDill Air Force Base (MAFB) and South Hillsborough County and weeknight and weekend regional intercity service between Tampa, St. Petersburg, and South Hillsborough County.
“With our increasing season-by-season ridership and recent grant for the purchase of a new vessel, we’re positioned to begin an exciting new era of permanent ferry service in Tampa Bay,” said Miller. “The new 350-passenger boat will double the capacity of our current boat and provide a stronger foundation for the development of regional ferry service across Tampa Bay. The grant was made possible by the strong regional support it received, including that of the entire Tampa Bay area congressional delegation and leadership of Congresswoman Castor. It will allow us to increase regional ferry capacity by nearly tenfold over the current seasonal service. This will further establish the ferry as a mainstay transit option to reduce congestion, create local jobs, support small businesses, and increase connectivity across the Tampa Bay area.”
HMS Ferries and South Swell Development project that permanent regional intercity service could begin between Tampa and St. Petersburg in the 2024-2025 season, while commuter service to MAFB could commence in the fall of 2025. They are working with Hillsborough County on accelerating the project. Such acceleration would be subject to project approvals and continued project funding.
The ferry’s 2022-2023 season is expected to start this October and run through the end of May. Ongoing, regular rider surveys from throughout the season continue to highlight the ferry’s success as an economic driver for Tampa Bay. Data reveals that more than 90% of riders patronize restaurants, shops, museums, and sporting events in Tampa and St. Petersburg, with almost 70% of respondents indicating they spend more than $40 at their destination city.
About the Cross-Bay Ferry
The Cross-Bay Ferry is a regional collaboration between Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, the city of Tampa and the city of St. Petersburg. The ferry’s 2021-2022 season service ended on May 1, and next season’s service is expected to begin in October. During the season, the ferry normally offers four trips daily between Tampa and St. Petersburg on Wednesdays and Thursdays, eight trips daily on Fridays and Saturdays, and six trips daily on Sundays. In Tampa, the ferry departs from the dock at the Tampa Convention Center, and in St. Petersburg from the dock at North Straub Park, near the Vinoy Basin. More information on the Cross-Bay Ferry, including the latest schedule and ticket-buying options, can be found at www.thecrossbayferry.com.
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Schifino Lee Public Relations